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By Eric Naki

Political Editor

Magashule finally has a real challenger to the throne

Former ally and right-hand man Thabo Manyoni is coming in on an anti-corruption, anti-state capture ticket.

For the first time in nearly 15 years at the helm, Free State ANC chairperson and Premier Ace Magashule is facing a stiff challenge to his power from his former ally and right-hand man, Thabo Manyoni.

That’s if Magashule declines his nomination by the ANC Youth League to contest the position of ANC secretary-general to replace the outgoing Gwede Mantashe.

Although there is widespread support for this in Magashule’s camp, some of his followers want him to stay in his current position to counter Manyoni, who supports Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The political strength of the two men is seen as 50-50, but a Manyoni lobbyist put it at 60-40 in his favour. In the old ANC culture, Manyoni should naturally succeed Magashule as his current deputy, but Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Jacob Zuma’s followers would like to see a “Zumaite” in the position.

According to his lobbyist, Manyoni is ready to take on Magashule for the position if Magashule decides to stand in the upcoming elective provincial conference.

Manyoni, who was ousted by Magashule as executive mayor of the Mangaung metro municipality and replaced by Olly Mlamleli, is coming on an anti-state capture and anti-corruption ticket.

Mlamleli is an ANC Women’s League provincial chairperson and Magashule’s staunch supporter.

The Free State is believed to be one of the most corrupt provinces, with shady deals including a company that ran a government website and fake dairy project in Vrede. The provincial government has extensive links to the controversial Gupta family.

The Indian-born brothers have first-name and direct-line relationships with each provincial cabinet minister, especially the premier and the provincial treasury MEC Elsabe Rockman.

In a document titled “Reclaiming the soul of the ANC”, Manyoni vowed that, like Ramaphosa, who he supports strongly, he would no longer remain silent about corruption in ANC structures and government.

“We need to reclaim the ANC in the Free State. It is not negotiable. State capturers, thugs and corrupt leaders, corrupt government officials and corrupt businesspeople must know that the game is up. We cannot defy and defile the dream of our forebears who demonstrated an unequalled valour and patriotism in fighting for what is rightfully theirs and their future generations,” Manyoni said.

Another candidate for the position is former MEC Mxolisi Dukwana, Magashule’s longtime enemy.

But it is understood that the Manyoni camp is negotiating with Dukwana to stand down in Manyoni’s favour to avoid splitting the vote at the elective conference.

ANC provincial spokesperson Thabo Meeko did not answer his phone, but was quoted by The Sowetan earlier this year as saying that Magashule would relinquish his current position if he was elected ANC secretary-general.

“The sentiment in the province is that Ace Magashule is ready for a national responsibility,” Meeko said.

Manyoni vowed to restore the ANC’s status as society’s leader. He highlighted the rot in the ANC and several government departments and blamed Magashule for instilling fear in people and causing divisions in the party.

“We therefore call on any person in the ANC structures to [back] a free ANC member who is not captured or corrupted.” – ericn@citizen.co.za

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